MIAMI (AP) — There are two things Heat forward LeBron James remembers from watching Mavericks guard Jason Kidd play in the early days of his NBA career.
One, he had a haircut that’s long gone out of style.
Two, he was darned good — and James says Kidd remains that way.
“He was basically Derrick Rose, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, all these guys that you see now, that’s who Jason Kidd was,” James said Tuesday night before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. “He could definitely pass the ball better than all those guys because he’s a pass-first guy, but he could go up and lead a 1-on-4 fast break and finish at the rim.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also marveled at the 38-year-old Kidd, calling him “the ultimate quarterback.”
All in good fun, Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he thinks Kidd’s career began in a different NBA era.
“I think I was watching him in black and white,” Wade joked. “Seems so long ago.”
Kidd is the oldest guard to start a game in an NBA finals. He has missed only two games this season while averaging 34 minutes per game.
“We’ve been able to get his minutes down a little bit this year, which has helped,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “But look, he’s just one of the really unique guys ... such an enthusiasm for the game. He’s one of the all-time unique guys that has ever played.”
Kidd made his first appearance in the finals in 2002, when he and the New Jersey Nets were swept by the Lakers.
“That was a long time ago,” Kidd said. “Your first time, you’re a little nervous, just understanding what you’re playing for, what’s at stake. But now, at this point, it’s just another basketball game.”
WADE WATCHES: Dwyane Wade has rarely watched tapes of his heroics in the last four games of the 2006 NBA finals, when he led the Heat past the Mavericks for the title.
That changed Monday, when he caught the final quarter of Game 3 of the series, the one where he led the Heat out of a double-digit deficit for a win that kept them out of a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven.
His play was great. The way he looked, however, made Wade cringe.
“I don’t know who that guy is, first of all,” Wade said. “He’s like another person. I had no conscience then, it seemed like. Totally different player. With time comes wisdom.”
CALM BOSH: The NBA finals are the biggest series of Heat forward Chris Bosh’s life, and he says staying cool and calm will be a key for him.
Intensity is a given, Bosh said before Game 1. But while he’s in the finals for the first time, he doesn’t want to psych himself out.
“It’s another series. It’s nothing different,” Bosh said. “That’s the approach that works for me. I don’t change anything. I just play the same basketball that we have been practicing and we’ve been trained to play, and we approach it with the same confidence. At least I do, and I think we do collectively as well. We just have to put everything aside and play basketball.
“It’s a game,” Bosh added. “And we have to stay focused on that.
SLEEPING SPO: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been asked about his sleeping patterns often during these playoffs, and he acknowledges that simple daily tasks — answering mail and messages, specifically — get pushed aside amid the intense workload that accompanies the postseason.
For the record, he says he sleeps.
And yes, he might sometimes wake up to jot down a note on the pad next to his bed.
“There might be something wrong with us in the coaching profession,” Spoelstra acknowledged.
He started in the Heat video room in the mid-1990s, toiling for then-coach Pat Riley and pulling more than a few all-nighters along the way. Now Spoelstra oversees a video staff.
“I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that I’m getting a lot more sleep than my video crew,” Spoelstra said. “Those guys have no life. So whenever I get down about myself, I just have to look at them.”
STERN ON QUIET CUBAN: NBA Commissioner David Stern put his head in his hands and shook his head “no” as he was being asked an inevitable question: What does he think of Mavs owner Mark Cuban taking a lower profile lately?
“It’s too delicious, but I’ll pass,” Stern said, stifling whatever one-liners he may have wanted to offer.
Instead, Stern offered the following reaction: “I just think that he’s trying to be as supportive as he can of his team, and he’s doing a heck of a job in terms of the talent that they’ve gotten, the coach he’s put there, and I think he’s enjoying it and spending a lot of time supporting his team. And I think that’s terrific.”
Cuban has been fined more than $1 million by Stern, primarily for complaining about the officials. That includes a $250,000 fine during the 2006 NBA finals between Dallas and Miami.
Cuban was seated right behind the Dallas bench, wearing his customary jeans and T-shirt.
SHORTS SUPERSTITION: As part of his superstitious preparation for Game 1 of the NBA finals between Dallas and Miami, Mavericks guard Jason Terry wore souvenir shorts from the 2006 finals, when his team lost to the Heat.
The night before every game, Terry sleeps in the shorts of the team he’s going to play against. That meant he needed Heat shorts.
“I had them,” he said Tuesday. “Gary Payton gave me some back when they beat us. So I’ve got those.”
Payton, now retired, played for the Heat in 2006. The shorts did the job, Terry said.
“I slept good,” he said. “No nervous jitters, no uneasiness about anything. I’m ready.”